Christopher Ortell entered into a plea agreement with his involvement in the death of Ridhwaan Mackay, as well as the theft of his Samsung cellphone that was sold to obtain money to purchase drugs.
MURDER accused Christopher Ortell, entered into a plea agreement where he admitted to his involvement in the death of Ridhwaan Mackay, as well as the theft of his Samsung cellphone that was sold to obtain money to purchase drugs.
Mackay’s body was dumped in the veld next to the R31 road near the Kimberley mental hospital and set alight in April 2017.
The post mortem indicated that the cause of death was smothering and smoke inhalation where a bundled sock that was covered by a partially burnt cloth belt with two metal buckles was shoved into his mouth.
Northern Cape High Court judge Sibongile Nuxmalo yesterday sentenced Ortell to 18 years imprisonment on charges of murder and theft, of which five years will be suspended, on condition that he does not commit another offence involving violence.
Ortell admitted that he had acted beyond the boundaries of self defence when he assaulted Mackay with a cricket bat until he lost consciousness.
He confessed to not calling for assistance despite knowing that Mackay was seriously injured.
He acknowledged that the drugs and alcohol that he had consumed had affected his inhibitions where he “cared less about the consequences of his actions”, although it had not impaired his judgement.
Ortell pointed out that while he did not have a direct intention to kill, he knew that his actions could have resulted in the death.
The incident took place on April 13 2017 after the deceased gave Ortell a lift to his home in St Augustine Road, West End.
The plea agreement gave details of a scuffle that took place over a tablet that belonged to the accused at the time the offence was committed.
“They used tik together at the house. The accused asked the deceased when he was going to get his tablet back that had been pawned whereby the deceased said that the money was ‘coming in slow’.
“The accused said that he did not want the money and instead wanted his tablet. The accused was using his tablet at school and some of his school work was on the tablet.”
The accused had indicated that he was tired of the deceased’s repeated promises of “seeing what he could do” about the problem.
“The accused took another hit of tik and asked the deceased again about the tablet.
“The deceased laughed, whereby the accused became angry and pushed the deceased against his chest. The deceased swung towards the accused but missed. The accused hit the deceased with a left and a right hook. The deceased covered his face and the accused grabbed the deceased around his neck where he fell to his knees.”
The deceased managed to free himself and ran towards the door, only to find that it was locked.
“The accused asked him what he was going to do about it. The deceased replied that for what he had done, he would give him nothing in return.”
Ortell claimed that he swung the cricket bat towards Mackay’s head as he was armed with a knife.
The deceased fell down unconscious and the accused tied the deceased with a wire, placed a sock in his mouth and covered his mouth with a cloth.
“The deceased was breathing with difficulty. The accused did this as he was afraid of what the deceased might do after the assault.
“The accused left him without calling the ambulance and later returned to find the deceased was cold and he could not detect any breathing.”
Two persons known as Leonardo Andrews and Habiba arrived at his house whereby the accused told them what had happened.
The accused and Andrews positioned the deceased against the cupboard whereby the deceased’s breathing improved.
“The accused is not a medical expert and realised that there was a possibility that Mackay could have still been alive yet he recklessly continued with his actions.”
The accused drove with the deceased’s vehicle and went to Andrews and Habiba where they smoked dagga.
The accused requested Andrews to assist him where they drove in the Golf 7 GTI belonging to the deceased to the garage to fill it with petrol.
“They drove back to the house where they loaded the deceased inside the vehicle and drove towards the R31 road outside Kimberley.
“The body was disposed of in the veld and set alight. Andrews threw some clothes belonging to the deceased in the fire.”
Andrews was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in 2018 after he was found guilty of defeating the ends of justice, although he has since been released from custody.
State prosecutor advocate Theunis Barnard indicated that the family of the deceased was traumatised following the murder.
“The deceased was reported missing on April 13 2017 while his body was only found on April 19 2017. They had to deal with the violent assault and inhumane burning that resulted in his death. His parents were subjected to further trauma as Mackay’s mother suffered severe depression and passed away in 2020 as she had lost the will to live. She was not able to cope with the death of her only son who at the age of 19 years, had his whole life ahead of him.”
Barnard stated that the accused had accepted responsibility for his actions and had offered his co-operation during the investigation.
“He has confessed to the crime and has spared the court the inconvenience of a protracted trial. The accused has been in custody since 2017 following his arrest. The murder was not planned but occurred on the spur of the moment. He was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the offence. He is remorseful for his actions and does not have any previous convictions. He intends to complete his Grade 12 while in prison as he was 19 years old at the time of his arrest.”
He added that Ortell was using substances including mandrax and tik from a young age.
Ortell was represented by advocate Ferdi van Heerden.